SINCE he returnedÂ from his trip to Netherlands in February to cover the â€œ2010 Niger-Delta Peace Consolidation Conferenceâ€ organized by the Hope for the Niger-Delta Campaign (HNDC) in The Hague, Regional Editor, Niger-Delta, Emma Amaize had, in his typical style,Â treated our readers to two unmatchedÂ reports.Â
First was on how the conference was nearly aborted by some forces and the second was how Nigeria could banish militancy in Niger-Delta, using The Netherlands example, which is basically spirit of determination and massive development. A lot of readers called and sent text messages on the stunning expose and narrative.
Today, he tells you how Nigerians (about 35, 000 in The Netherlands) are surviving in the European country. He spoke to their leader, Chief Lambert Igboanugo and others. He alsoÂ takes you into the world of Nigeriaâ€™s â€œunofficial ambassadorâ€Â in The Netherlands,Â Comrade Sunny Ofehe, who founded the HNDC in 2005;Â how is coping with theÂ campaign for a better deal for Niger-Delta in Netherlands, where the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC),Â has its international headquarters;Â and what leaf he (Ofehe)Â thinks Nigeria should borrow from Holland.
Amaize also had separate sessions with the national president of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Mr. Atuboyedia Obianime, executive director, Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL), Port-Harcourt, Dr. Anyakwee Nsirimovu, lecturer/consultant, University of Port-Harcourt, Dr. Sofriside Joab-Peterside, national president of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Dr. Chris Ekiyor, Abuja â€“based legal practitioner, Barrister Alex Ofehe, who were also in Netherlands for the â€˜peace conferenceâ€™ on their experiences and expectations from the Federal Government.Â Itâ€™s in Saturday Vanguard only.
THERE are about 35,000 Nigerians living The Netherlands and the leader of Nigerians there is Chief Lambert Igboanugo. Saturday Vanguard met him and other Nigerians during a visit to Netherlands and they spoke on how they are surviving, what makes Holland functional, what they expect from the Nigerian government, particularly on the transformation of Niger-Delta, which has a similar Topography with The Netherlands and lots more.
He was preparing to return home finally to Nigeria after spending 36 years in Holland at the time of this interview in The Hague
Chief Lambert Igboanugo, leader, Nigerian community, Holland:
How do Nigerians in Netherlands live, how do they survive?
Ordinarily, Nigerians here survive just the way Nigerians survive in Diaspora. So it is nothing different from the way other Nigerians survive in the United States and United Kingdom. But how is life here compared to Nigeria?
Well, you cannot compare a developing country with a developed country. All we know is that people like us are trying to preach patriotism and nationalism so that we can be able to replicate every good thing we have seen abroad in our country. I am not jealous of anything that is good here, the only thing is about is anything that is good in my country.
What do you think the Nigerian government should do about the Niger-Delta situation with what you are seeing here?
It has taken so much for the Niger-Delta problem to be surmounted and now that we are talking about solutions. Credible solution is the only way out. A half-full glass is better than a half-empty glass, that is what I think is best now for the Niger-Delta. There should be a mid-way arrangement, now that there is amnesty on ground, the best way is to build on the amnesty and have a concrete development programme for the international community to support. People should come in and offer their best because only the best of the best people are good enough to help find the solution to the Niger-Delta problematic.
Netherlands is below sea level like Niger-Delta but you canâ€™tÂ believe itâ€™s so when you see theÂ bridges, roads, buildings and other things, what should Nigeria plagiarize from here to make Niger-Delta functional?
As far as Niger-Delta is concerned, it is under sea level like Holland is under sea level but Holland started dredging and making sure that they have their place, that they have their land, over 60 per cent of their land is reclaimed from the sea.
They started doing these centuries ago and they perfected it, nothing stops places like Niger-Delta from having the same arrangement that has happened in Holland happen in Niger-Delta if there is political good will and individuals who are committed and ready to be patriotic to work. Its not people lining their pockets that is the matter, if that is the matter, all you see here in Netherlands wouldnâ€™t have been here.
How are you people coping with food here, what I have been eating here since I came in are bread, so many baked things and all sort of meats I cannot place their names, where is pounded yam, garri and all that?
We have tropical shops where you can buy from bitter leaf to bitter cola but when you come to an environment like this (Novotel Hotel, a five star hotel in The Hague , where the interview was held), you donâ€™t expect that kind of service. But when you come down town, you will get some of those local things that you can use to make your pepper soup and all that. That is the advantage we have today in Netherlands because when we arrived here, we did not get that kind of opportunity.
When did you arrive here?
I came to Holland in 1974, that is why I am the leader of the community, but, now, I am on my way back to Nigeria because I need to go and get something going.
How do Nigerians here get to know themselves, is it under this group that you lead?
No, no, no, there are so many other cultural associations, political associations, civil society associations and all that but I am the overall chairman of all the Nigeria associations in the Netherlands .
Is there anyway that you helped yourselves here, letâ€™s say a Nigerian coming into Netherlands and is stranded?
Everybody is his brotherâ€™s keeper here but there is a limit to help we cannot offer. If its immigration help, we cannot offer that, but, humanitarian assistance in several ways, we will be able to offer that.
What is the attitude of the current Nigeria envoy here to Nigerians in Netherlands?
As far as I am concerned, she is workaholic, she is very much down-to-earth. She grew from the ranks and is doing her best for us to have a very cordial relationship.
Mr. Sunny Ofehe, founder, Hope for Niger-Delta Campaign, The Netherlands:
How do you people survive in terms of food here in The Netherlands?
We have African shops but they are in the big cities. Unlike before when it is difficult to see some core African food to eat here, they are available in those shops, those people go to Nigeria , they go to Ghana and other African countries to bring these items and we buy them there even though they are exorbitant. We are not lacking in terms of the availability of the various food items.
You saw that I asked my wife to prepare pounded yam, egusi and ogbono soup the first night most of you landed here to tell you people that we also eat those things you eat at home here too.
How is the cold weather here treating you?
Well, we have to survive it; it is a place we call our home now, so we have to take anything we see in terms of natural causes. So, you know, we have seasons, we have the summer; we have winter and all that. What we have in Nigeria that we are complaining about is what they are praying to have here- the sun.
But, unfortunately, we donâ€™t know how to organize tourism to attract this people who are lacking the sun to come over to our side and enjoy it. Here, we have been able to cope because people are living here; they are not dying, so when we come, you pad yourself.
Of course, you, yourself, you have been here, I can you are already wearing a jacket, no matter how cold it is, with time, you will get used to the cold and you can afford to even leave your head and hands open or wear any other thing to cover yourself. We donâ€™t have any problem with weather at all, we have adjusted.
Mr. Tony Amayo â€“ entrepreneur:
There is no oil here, it is gas, yet Shell is able to contribute to its development, what you think Shell should in the Niger-Delta. Actually, Shell cannot do much, itâ€™s your government. Your government has a major say to tell Shell what to do.
Shell is a company on its own, if your government cannot do anything, Shell cannot do anything. Let your government do what it wants to do
The kind of facilities you see here, would you like to wake up in a dream and see them in Niger-Delta?
Yes, I want them to be transferred immediately.
We see a lot of storey-buildings here, are they built by government and hired out?
It is the good government, they have good policies here. There is nothing like your being made a governor and you steal all the money. We donâ€™t have good government in Nigeria . Its individuals and private sector that are building it, they build and rent out. They have a whole lot of estate agents who build houses and rent and they give the houses to government to manage and told them the month they are going to pay the rent. They have good infrastructures here, if you are not working, they pay you social amenities.
What does government pay?
If you are not working and you are born here, at least, you get almost 80 to 700 Euros in month and then after paying your bills, you have from 100 to 200 Euros to feed on in a month.
How do you people cope here, there is cold here?
Yes, you have to put on jacket; you are already putting it on yourself
I was working here before but I am into my own personal business now. I have a small scale company here
Bread and all those things you see here are the Dutch food, we are coping, we are managing. When you are in
Rome , you behave like the Romans.
Nigerians have different groups here but we meet one way or the other.